A below-the-knee amputation is surgery to remove your leg below the knee. Your doctor removes the leg and keeps as much healthy skin, blood vessel, and nerve tissue as possible.
Having your leg removed is traumatic. You have to learn to live with new limitations. This can be hard and frustrating. You may feel depressed. Or you may grieve for your previous lifestyle. Talking with your family, friends, and health professionals about how you feel may help. You may also find it helps to talk with a person who has had an amputation.
Even though losing a limb is a challenge, it does not change who you are. It doesn't prevent you from enjoying life. You will have to learn new ways to do things. But you will still be able to work and take part in sports and activities. And you can still learn, love, play, and live life to its fullest.
Many organizations can help you adjust to your new life. Websites for some of these include www.amputeecoalitioncanada.org and www.amputee.ca.
Your doctor will tell you how much of your leg should be removed. He or she will leave enough healthy skin to cover the remaining part of your leg (residual limb). You may get an artificial leg. This is called a prosthesis. If you get one, your doctor will shape your residual limb for the best possible fit.
Your doctor may sew together the skin to cover the residual limb. Or he or she may leave it open to make sure it heals as it should. In this case, the skin may be sewn together 10 to 14 days later.
After surgery, you will stay in the hospital for several days. How long you stay depends on your general health and the way your doctor does the surgery. You may spend part of your recovery in a skilled nursing facility.
Your residual limb may heal as soon as 4 to 8 weeks after surgery. But it may take longer. You will need physical rehabilitation (rehab). The rehab can sometimes start within 48 hours of your surgery. It may last as long as 1 year.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your surgery.
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Current as of: March 21, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Kenneth J. Koval, MD - Orthopedic Surgery, Orthopedic Trauma
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